Safer Sex for Bisexuals & their Partners
Many Bisexuals Already Have Safer Sex to protect themselves and their partners from unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Use this brochure to learn how to reduce your risk of getting or passing on HIV and other STIs. If you already practice safer sex, you can use this brochure to teach a friend.
It’s Not About Who You Are
Safer sex is about what you do. HIV is spread through blood, semen (cum), vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Some STIs, like herpes, can pass from one person to another by skin-to-skin contact between the penis or vagina, anus, and mouth. This can include areas not covered by a condom, like the balls.
Ways You Can Lower Your Risks
• Use condoms, latex dams and gloves
• Choose safer sex acts instead of riskier ones
• Use only new or clean needles and drug tools, and don’t share
• Be open with your doctor about your risks
• Ask your doctor about STI vaccines
KNOW YOUR STATUS, GET YOURSELF TESTED
Getting tested isn’t just for your well being, its for the health and safety of your partners, the well being of those you are sexually active with and provides a peace of mind to everyone you are sexually involved with, including yourself. Don’t wait until you have questionable symptoms, get yourself tested for HIV & STIs regularly, because some STIs show few or no symptoms.
Why Have Safer Sex?
Sex is more fun if you’re not afraid. Some people do not have sex with anyone because they are worried about HIV & STIs. Other people do not worry and take a lot of risks. Most people try to find a good balance. You can find your own balance by thinking about which risks you are willing to take and which you are not. These are called your “risk limits.” Your own risk limits can change over time as you learn new things or as your own needs and wishes change.
Decide Your Risk Limits
It can be helpful to write down or think through what kinds of sex feel safe and comfortable for you, and which don’t. For many people, safe activities include things like kissing, hugging, or pleasuring your partner with your hands. Some people might also feel safe having oral, anal or vaginal sex with a condom or latex dam. There may be some activities you feel comfortable with part of the time and some you are not sure how you feel about. Writing these things down lets you picture what you consider not risky or too risky. It’s one way to figure out in advance what you would feel comfortable doing in a sexual situation. Once you know your limits, you can work to stay within them.
In The Real World
Most people do not want to put themselves at risk for HIV and other STIs. At times, mistakes happen. One thing leads to another, and you find yourself having a sexual encounter that you later worry about. If this happens, there are many resources you can use to get help. Talking with a safer sex counselor is one way to sort things out. It can help you figure out ways to avoid doing risky things in the future “in the heat of the moment.” If you were sexually abused or assaulted, speaking to a rape crisis counselor or hotline can help. Look at the end of this brochure for a list of resources.
Identify your risks and practice safe sex
Oral Sex on a Vagina
(“cunnilingus” “eating out”)
STIs that are passed through skin to skin contact can be gotten or given through oral sex. Although less common, HIV also can be passed from vaginal fluids to any cuts or sores in the mouth, especially if the person on the receiving end has their period. Using a latex dam is an easy way to reduce your risks.
Known Risks: herpes I and II, syphilis
Possible Risks: HIV & hepatitis B (giving oral sex, if there is menstrual blood)
Unknown Risks: HPV, chlamydia, gonorrhea
Oral Sex on an Anus
Rimming is very risky for hepatitis A. Parasites can also be passed on from anus to mouth. Gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis bacteria can live in your throat or anus. If the person on the receiving end has bumps, sores, or is bleeding from their anus, that could raise the giver’s risk for STIs, so take a pass until they heal.
Known Risks: hepatitis A, parasites, bacterial infections, herpes I and II, syphilis
Unknown Risks: HPV, gonorrhea, chlamydia
Oral Sex on a Penis
(“giving head” “fellatio” “sucking off”)
HIV risk with oral sex is low, but the risk of other STIs is still high. Depending on the STI, it can be passed easily through sores in the mouth or on the penis, cum in the mouth, or tiny invisible cuts in the mouth or gums.
Known Risks: herpes I and II, HPV, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia
Possible Risks: HIV & hepatitis B (giving oral sex only)
Safer Sex Tips:
Oral-Vaginal AND Oral-Anal Sex
• Place a latex dam over the vulva or anus, or a cut-open condom instead.
• Put some lube on the inside of the dam to feel good. Use non-flavored and non-glycerin lube on vaginas.
• Put some flavored lube on the outside of the dam for fun!
• Dropped the dam? Get a new one — it’s hard to tell whose fluids are whose!
• Use a condom! Non-lubed condoms come in many styles, including flavored.
• Not into condoms? Don’t take cum in your mouth.
• Avoid giving oral sex if you have bleeding gums or sores in your mouth. Wait at least an hour if you’ve brushed or flossed your teeth.
• Try not to “deep-throat” because this irritates the lining of the throat, making it easier to get an STI.
• Take a good look! If the penis and balls have any bumps, sores or strange fluid coming out, avoid having oral sex until they get checked out.
Vaginal and Anal Sex
Sex with Penetration
(“fucking” “having sex” “intercourse”)
The risk of getting HIV is higher for the person being penetrated (in anal sex, the “bottom”) than for the person doing the penetrating (in anal sex, the “top”). Both people are at risk for getting or giving STIs. Sharing sex toys can also put people at risk for HIV and STIs.
Known Risks: HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, herpes I and II, HPV, hepatitis B, trichomoniasis (vaginal sex only)
Unknown Risk: hepatitis C (higher if there is blood or microtears)
Safer Sex Tips:
• Use a condom and some lube! Lube helps condoms not break and makes sex feel better.
• Don’t use the condom if it’s too old. You can tell by the expiration date on the wrapper.
• Adding a drop of lube inside the tip of the condom can make it feel good. After you put on the condom, lube up the outside, too.
• Pinch the tip of the condom as you put it on. This will leave room for cum so the condom won’t burst when the person cums (ejaculates).
• When you put on the condom, make sure the side is up that will roll down smoothly. If you put it on wrong side up, don’t flip it over; try again with a new condom.
• Hold onto the base of the condom as you pull the penis out so the cum doesn’t spill and the condom doesn’t come off inside the partner.
• Use a new condom with each sex act and each partner.
• If you insert toys for sex, use condoms on your toys, clean them with a small amount of bleach and water, or don’t share them. Leather toys can’t be cleaned like this, so don’t share those. Don’t have bleach? Washing with soap and water can still help.
Sex without Penetration
(“rubbing” “dry humping” “outercourse”)
Some STIs can be passed on through this kind of sex, particularly STIs that are passed through skin-to-skin contact.
Known Risks: herpes I and II, HPV, syphilis, trichomoniasis, yeast infections (between vulvas), bacterial vaginosis (between vulvas),
Possible Risks: yeast infections (penis to vulva), gonorrhea, chlamydia
Unknown Risks: hepatitis B & C, HIV
Safer Sex Tips:
• For vulva to vulva rubbing: put a latex dam or long piece of plastic wrap in between the two of you. For a hands-free version, drape plastic wrap around one of you like underwear so it won’t slide off. Don’t forget the lube!
• For vulva-penis or penis-anus rubbing: use a condom with lots of lube on the outside.
Way Beyond the Binary
Since the word “bisexuality” has “bi” (literally: two) in it, some claim that using it as one’s label promotes a gender binary, i.e. exclusively male and female. According to this line of thinking, anyone who uses the label “bisexual” not only has no romantic interest in non-binary sexes and genders (including transgender, intersex, and genderqueer), but also is promoting their very erasure.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Sadly, this thinking propagates misunderstandings and even a divided community based on confusion and misinformation about the term “Bisexual.” Here’s the lowdown:
The Golden Rule
Above all else, a person who prefers to identify as “pansexual,” “flexisexual,” “fluid,” or any number of labels instead of “bisexual” has every right to do so. But, like all good things in life, it goes both ways. No one has the right to define our label, just as we do not have the right to define others’ labels either. To imply that, by definition, a person who labels zirself* “bisexual” does not respect and/or is not sexually/romantically interested in people outside the male/female gender identity is not only untrue, it’s actually insulting to that person.
Again, one doesn’t have a right to define the label “bisexuality” for others regardless of your vast knowledge of Latin prefixes.
Five Simple Reasons Why the “Binary” Argument Holds No Water
1.) Historical context is important, so it’s critical to note that, similar to “homosexuality” and “lesbianism,” “bisexuality” is a word reclaimed by the bisexual movement from the medical institution (specifically the DSM III which pronounced it a mental disease). The bi community itself had little to no influence over the formation and structure of the word, and simply did what gays and lesbians did: empowered their communities by claiming the word for themselves. Of course, no one would say that miserable people can’t be “gay” because they’re not happy or upbeat all the time. Nor are lesbians restricted to women who hail from the Greek island of Lesbos.
2.) For many bisexuals, the “bi” in “bisexual” refers not to male plus female, but to attraction to genders like our own, plus attraction to genders different from our own. In other words, it’s the ability to move in two directions along a continuum of multiple genders.
3.) The bisexual movement emerged around the same time as the transgender movement. Thus, in its early stages, no language was available for the description of attraction to non-binary sexes and genders.
4.) The bisexual community cannot oppress the trans community (which is part of what these misconceptions claim) because we are not privileged among queers. In other words, we ourselves are being erased, just as is the trans community.
5.) Historically (and very much currently), the bisexual community has been one of the most accepting places toward transgender and genderqueer people. Our communities have always shared a very strong alliance.
Pitting Minorities Against Each Other
The sad fact is these allegations of binarism draw not from actual transphobia within bisexual communities or bi-identified people, but from a long history of biphobia within parts of the gay and lesbian movements.
Claims of bisexuality as an “oppressive identity” are not new. We used to (and still) hear that bisexuals are a “privileged group” perpetuating heteronormativity and oppressing gay and lesbian people. Yet now we hear that bisexuals are a privileged group perpetuating cisgender** normativity and oppressing transgender and genderqueer people. Both are demonstrably incorrect. An oppressing class/system will often point to the groups it seeks to marginalize and demonize and claim that they are in fact the ones who are the force of oppression and evil. It’s a classic maneuver, and it couldn’t be more false.
Trans people have suffered from very similar allegations from gays and lesbians. Male to female (MTF) trans people have been accused of merely escaping from one stereotype to another rather than advocating true gender freedom. Meanwhile, female to male (FTM) trans people have been accused of being opportunistic seekers of male privilege. Boy, we just can’t win, can we?
The “Bisexual = Binary” argument pits these minorities-within-the-minority against the other, compelling us to compete for a place in the gay and lesbian movement. In this way, the movement can stop worrying about how to prevent bi and trans communities from threatening their positions of power. Setting us against one another makes sure that we’ll do that job for them.
Enough Is Enough
The good news is that the tide is turning in some gay and lesbian groups, many of which are beginning to welcome both trans and bi people with open arms (not enough in our opinion, but still we want to give props to our allies). The bad news is that a number of folks who identify under names other than bisexual have bought into the absurd arguments outlined above and are playing right into the hands of those who seek their downfall.
*zirself: third person personal pronoun, gender irrelevant
**cisgender: a person whose gender assignment at birth matches their gender identity